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Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) 2014-2021

Poor water quality combined with the lack of access to improved water and sanitation facilities and services in the Pacific has dire health consequences, which in turn drain already stretched public sector budgets as well as the limited human capital.


MFAT: What we did, how and the benefits

Development partners have worked in the WASH sector for a long time and progress has been made. WASH features in the aid programme priorities for Kiribati and Vanuatu, amongst others. MFAT approached Kirsty to lead a team of multi-disciplinary experts, and sometimes other development partners, to go in-country and prepare business cases and design documentation. This process allows MFAT to secure funds internally and to go to market for detailed technical designs for individual work streams. By consulting thoroughly and bringing partner governments, the private sector and civil society along on the journey, other development partners have opted to pick up the outputs of this work to inform their own aid programmes. This multiplies the impact of MFAT’s investment in the design team, is more rewarding for the team and more importantly allows the WASH interventions to reach more people.


UNICEF: What we did, how and the benefits

UNICEF Pacific‘s multi-country programme strategy has WASH as a pillar of its work, with a strong focus on WASH in communities, schools and health care facilities accessed by children and their families. Since 2014 Kirsty Burnett has worked for UNICEF securing highly competitive funding from MFAT’s Partnership Fund to support WASH in Schools (WinS) programmes in Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The success of the WinS programme at the primary school level in the Outer Islands of Kiribati, led to a successful bid that the programme continues across all outer islands and in health care facilities as well as schools (including early childhood education centres).


To achieve a successful proposal and design, Kirsty specialises in connecting the various government agencies that have a role and listening to communities, and then marrying their needs with the business processes and drivers of donors. In the words of an i-Kiribati official in 2018, this approach really makes a difference, ‘I wish to thank you for your obvious care for our welfare. It is true that you are unique, not like the other TAs that come around, many are not very sincere. As for you, you would be the first who did things right by our protocols,…it is good you fit in with the locals and by joining in their fun, you did a good thing. The locals loved it and I am sure, respected you for it’.


Kirsty Burnett and Beia Tim from UNICEF with hand pump, Abaiang, Kiribati, 2019

Through Kirsty’s efforts UNICEF secured approx NZD20 million for WASH programmes in those three countries; and UNICEF has mobilised additional matched funding.


Kirsty’s concept and design work always focuses at both a national level across government agencies as appropriate (to create an enabling environment through polices, regulations etc), and at a local facility or community level. She understands the critical importance of addressing the ‘demand’ side for improved facilities and services that are combined with behaviour changes, and the ‘supply‘ side of potable water and toilet infrastructure and information on hand-washing. Returning to communities to see progress is incredibly rewarding - schools with hand-washing stands, functioning and clean toilets, communities providing the labour for tank stands and to lay pipes, and school community rosters for cleaning and maintenance. At the national level seeing Ministries working together and committed to undertaking repairs, including WASH issues in the school curriculum and their wide participation in coordinating committees to ensure the long-term sustainability is equally important and rewarding.


Vanuatu: Malo - community visit, 2017

What did they say

Kirsty doesn’t pretend to know all the answers, rather she skillfully assembles the right team of subject matter experts, and distills the information needed for concept proposals. She expects to be challenged and to keep drilling down to ‘get it right’. Kirsty keeps an eye on ‘does this make sense in terms of a full-blown design; let's be clear early on about technical issues and how they relate to what's needed/wanted by the community and/or government, assumptions and risks, likely pitfalls, who will do what, the resourcing, issues to focus on further at the design stage and project implementation.

Dr Jan Gregor, former Science leader at the Institute of Environment and Scientific Research (ESR) and team member with Kirsty in Kiribati and Vanuatu.



MFAT and UNICEF: Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) 2014-2021





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